A week from now Yooka-Laylee will be released. Yooka-Laylee tries to recapture some of the magic from the 90’s 3D platformer genre. But is Yooka-Laylee the spark to reignite the genre, and is there a renewed interest in this genre?
The fifth generation of consoles (N64, PS, Sega Saturn, etc), was truly the heart of the genre. For the most part it started and practically ended there. I believe there are a couple of reasons for this which I will break down. First, Super Mario 64. Nintendo really set the bar for other game makers by releasing one of the first 3D rendered games as a platformer. It set the mood for the console generation and gave developers a good idea of what could be done with this new technology. Another reason is that the technology was ideal for 3D platformers especially the more cartoony ones. More serious looking games back then didn’t exactly fit as well as a cartoon style which made the lack of amazing graphics less apparent. And the older consoles weren’t the best at doing some of the more complicated gameplay styles making the somewhat simple platforming control scheme a good fit for the generation.
During the fifth generation the genre got slammed with games, good ones slipped through the cracks and one seemed to be coming out almost every couple of weeks. When the next console generation came out, it opened up more options to developers to do something more complex. By this time the 3D platformer had a been there done that feel. Most developers who were once major players in the 3D platformer genre abandoned it for new opportunities this new technology offered. The platform games that stayed were mostly quick cash-ins. These left a bad taste in consumer’s mouths for 3D platformers, and ultimately by the sixth generation 3D platforms were almost completely abandoned except for a handful.
That brings us to current day. The bar is constantly raising to what games can be made and genres that don’t capitalize on the technology are left behind. Indie developers are where we can still get those older game genres. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The big developers will always be focusing on the new.
Recently we have seen older 3D platformers come back in nostalgic ways, like remasters and rereleases but for the most part money isn’t being poured into making new versions of these old games. They are just quickly capitalizing on nostalgia. Most big developers don’t want to go back to that, they want to push the bar.
The interest for 3D platformers is there, there is money to be made. However Yooka-Laylee and these remasters aren’t the beginning of a return to old where the new hot thing is a 3D platforming game. I can’t see triple A titles being 3D platformers for the most part. However we may see an increase in the genre from indie developers after Yooka-Laylee, but the cost to make a good looking 3D platformer is still pretty high.
In short the 3D platforming genre isn’t really making a comeback. We are just seeing a small uptick in platform games and rereleses. We have always had 3D platformers scattered here and there but for the most part the genre has been dead and it won’t come back to what it once was. The ability to make so many different types of games with the technology we have is too much to focus the best developers on simple and cartoony games, no matter how good the games may be.